A Pipeline of Opportunity: Operation New Hope’s Ready 4 Work Program & The Grimes Companies


Developing the talent pipeline is important in any industry sector in Northeast Florida. Operation New Hope and The Grimes Companies are working together to develop a talent pipeline that offers opportunity to those needing a fresh start in the marketplace. 

Operation New Hope’s Ready 4 Work initiative offers life coaching, job training and placement, and wrap-around care. All of these supportive services help ex-offenders find and keep good jobs. When Operation New Hope staff approached The Grimes Companies in 2011, they knew the company was an ideal ask.  Grimes had been in business for 25 years, worked with JAX Port, and served as a local leader in warehousing, trucking, packaging and TPL (Third Party Logistics). Since that time, 104 people have been hired for either the temporary packaging department or the full-time warehouse positions. 

To be eligible for employment with The Grimes Companies, a worker must successfully complete the Ready 4 Work course.  Five workers who graduated from the Ready 4 Work program have been employed at The Grimes Companies for a duration of 3 to 6 years, which is an enviable timeframe for employee retention.  In that time, they have revamped their lives.  Earning great wages translates into owning cars and having safe and secure housing.

Utilizing Emerging Talent

The packaging division also utilizes talent emerging from the Ready 4 Work program. Jobs in this department range from 6 to 12 months, offering workers an opportunity to work part time. It’s an excellent way to learn new skills and gain confidence. Depending on company needs and individual skills, full time jobs may be offered in the transportation division. The success of this relationship centers on solid case-by-case choices for all involved.

The Grimes Companies is committed to accommodating those that have demonstrated an interest in workplace success. For example, one worker has multiple barriers, including previous incarceration, a lack of work history, as well as learning challenges.  He has demonstrated excellent life skills and is adapting to a new working environment. 

The Grimes Companies, under new leadership of President Ike Sherlock, is continuing this successful partnership.  Sherlock states, “Our founder has always been concerned with social issues in the community and making a positive impact on Jacksonville as a whole. It’s the fabric of our culture.” Sherlock acknowledges that obtaining reliable talent through the Ready 4 Work program means “Everybody wins. We really need the talent Operation New Hope offers. Due to career counseling and mentorship, they’re at a whole different level of hireability.”

Flame Broiler Owner Offering

Second Chances At Success

Jackie Grezebin, the franchise owner of four Flame Broilers in Jacksonville, Florida, explains why she has hired five formerly incarcerated from the Operation New Hope Ready4Work reentry program for her stores. Jackie explains that she grew up in a small, poverty-stricken dairy farm town in Wisconsin of only 104 residents. She understands the need and importance of second chances.

"When I was 6 years old, my father became disabled in a car accident, which further pushed us into poverty. My older brother, did not handle the injury of my father well and he was introduced to the criminal justice system at age 13 and remained in the system until he was 18 years old. He never graduated high school" Jackie explained.

"From a family stand-point, it is emotionally draining to have a sibling involved in the criminal justice system. Other members in our small town judged and ridiculed our family for continuing to support my brother every time he got into trouble. Financially, supporting my brother strained our family. If we helped him, or if we fed him, we ourselves could not afford to eat".

As a business owner, Jackie appreciates the caliber of employee she receives from the Ready4Work program.

"Every time I hired from the Ready4Work program, I got a well trained employee who wanted to work. They came to work so well-trained that I had to do very little on-boarding with the employees. All five were and remained drug-free throughout their time of employment with me. What I appreciate the most about the Ready4Work program is the case management support the graduates receive for a year. This lets me know that my employees have support outside of work, and that they have resources to turn to. This brings me peace of mind as an employer".

The small dairy town did not offer second chances to residents with a history with the criminal justice system and Jackie's brother had to move out of the state to get his second chance at an education and remain out of trouble.

"I believe if my brother would have had a program like Ready4Work, he would not have stayed involved with the criminal justice system for so long. I understand the importance of a second chance and I understand how employment and financial stability can offer that second chance. This is why I hire from the Ready4Work program. I love everything Operation New Hope stands for."

Source: https://www.operationnewhope.org/about-us

Successful Re-Entry Into The Workforce Benefits All

From living on the street to becoming the head of a local glass warehouse in less than three years, Kaleem G. shows second chances are possible with the help of Operation New Hope.Operation New Hope, one of more than 70 United Way of Northeast Florida partner agencies, works with community organizations to provide assistance to individuals requiring treatment for chemical dependency, clothing, shelter, educational training and employment.

Kaleem recently graduated from Operation New Hope’s Ready4Work program.

“Ready4Work is a part of my foundation, my sobriety and has made me the man I am today,” Kaleem said.

Ready4Work assists individuals formerly incarcerated, like Kaleem, break the cycle of getting tied up in the criminal justice system through skill trainings, including employment, educational and life skills. The program is four to six weeks, and the end goal is help individuals gain stability by earning careers.

“Two years ago, I did not like who I saw in the mirror, but now I have a career, a connection with my family and hope for my future,” Kaleem said.

Operation New Hope staff instructed him from prison, and when he was released, the training continued. That is how he became forklift certified. The organization also helped Kaleem have a successful job interview. They provided him clothes and shoes for his first interview and also drove him to his interview.

“I was so astonished and impressed with the dedication the staff showed me while I was incarcerated,” Kaleem said.

Kaleem is just one example of the lives changed by Operation New Hope every day. Moreover, Ready4Work is just one of nearly 80 local initiatives supported by United Way of Northeast Florida and its partners in the areas of youth success, financial stability, health and basic needs.

Kaleeem is employed by Lee & Cates glass.

Adapted from the United Way article: http://www.unitedwaynefl.org/blog/united-way-partner-operation-new-hope-turns-mans-life-around/

1 As an employer, what are you asking me to do?

To hold off asking about an applicant’s criminal record until the interview process.

2 Does this mean people with criminal records get priority over people who don’t?

No. This in no way tilts the scales in favor of people with a record. It simply levels the playing field at the beginning of the hiring process by not immediately rejecting someone because he or she has a prior arrest or conviction.

3 How does this change my hiring process?

Very little. The only thing we are asking is that employers wait until the interview phase to ask someone if they have a record. This allows the applicant to explain his or her circumstances, rather than being discarded from the start because of questions on the job application about a record.

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